I consider this the biggest secret in Facebook ads, but almost nobody is talking about it.  By the end of this post, you’ll be nodding your head vigorously. Take notes:

Custom Audience Targeting.  

There, I said it.

custom audience targeting

You can upload lists of userids, emails, and phone numbers directly as targets. There are some restrictions here on who you can upload, but you can read the fine print when you accept this feature. It’s only in Power Editor, by the way.

custom audiences facebook

You can use a custom audience as a negative target, too. Meaning that if you have an email acquisition campaign, you can exclude your existing list from seeing the message. Why waste impressions?

If you’re really a pro, you can place all your competitors in a CAT, then exclude them from your ad campaigns, making it harder to spy on you.

block competitor research

Combine CAT with other forms of targeting. For example, run search ads (called sponsored results) on the top 50 most popular terms, but also include CAT. Who cares if they’re looking for SpongeBob if they’re someone you want to reach? Learn the tactics here. This is secret retargeting, folks!


Start using CAT in sequence so you can hit people at different points in the funnel. Maybe you use Marketo for your marketing automation. Have you considered tying people to stages in the funnel so your messages reach them there?

How about segmenting CAT by customer value – different lists for different tiers? If you’re an airline, you’d have lists by status, then further segment by home city.

What about your most frequent purchasers if you’re a direct marketer? If they bought during Valentine’s Day last year, assign that CAT to your V-Day posts and see if you can increase the lifetime value of your existing customers.

Some companies are setting up dynamic lists – triggers for when people are checking in, complaining, buying stuff, whatever. Let’s say you just bought something at a retailer. Wouldn’t it be nice (or creepy) to cross-sell them within minutes of when they bought? Or at least get them to promote your brand while it’s still hot in their minds.

custom audience filtering

Okay, do you agree with me now?  Have we let the CAT out of the bag?

If you’re thinking this is cool, but that it takes some technical integration, you’re right. You’re going to have to make a long-term investment to get all your data in once place so you can apply rules to your marketing activities no matter where they come from.  That will require some magic in your Salesforce.com, Marketo, Zoho, or whatever systems you use.

In the meantime, you can manually upload lists to play for now, then automate. Dear readers, what do you think?

– Dennis Yu


  1. Dan Auito January 11th, 2013

    Dennis is the Facebook marketing secret weapon! Staying tuned brother!

  2. Dennis Yu January 14th, 2013

    Dan– thank you! Looking forward to doing more content together with you, buddy!

  3. Trevor August 10th, 2013

    Really nice post. Someone told me that you had posted this here.

    I can see that you posted enough to tantalize but the truth is you really haven’t let the cat out of the bag yet.

    There is far more to this than mentioned and even the simple basic stuff like building the list at absolute hyper speed, you haven’t mentioned here either, lol.


  4. Dennis Yu August 10th, 2013


    You’re right. There are MANY applications of custom audiences. Want to share some of your favorites so we can highlight you as a contributor here? Just email dennis@blitzmetrics.com.

    Meanwhile, more stuff to consume on custom audience tricks:

    Always looking for more pros!

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Dennis Yu
Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company which partners with schools to train young adults. Dennis’s program centers around mentorship, helping students grow their expertise to manage social campaigns for enterprise clients like the Golden State Warriors, Nike, and Rosetta Stone. He’s an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook Marketing and has spoken in 17 countries, spanning 5 continents, including keynotes at L2E, Gultaggen, and Marketo Summit. Dennis has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, CBS Evening News and is co-author of Facebook Nation – a textbook taught in over 700 colleges and universities. He’s a regular contributor for Adweek’s SocialTimes column and has published in Social Media Examiner, Social Media Club, Tweak Your Biz, B2C, Social Fresh, and Heyo. He held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines and studied Finance and Economics at Southern Methodist University as well as London School of Economics. He ran collegiate cross-country at SMU and has competed in over 20 marathons including a 70 mile ultramarathon. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics.com, his blog, or on Facebook.